“A leader without followers is just someone taking a walk.” – John Maxwell
One of the biggest challenges for anyone in a leadership position is effectively communicating with their employees—but it’s vital that you do.
A 2015 report by SHRM shows that effective communication is one of the critical facets of employee satisfaction.
Whether it’s communicating your company’s goals for the year or maintaining open communication about employee morale, it’s plain to see that engaging with your team is often more important than engaging your customers. Communication with staff is also vital to creating buy-in, so that your team understands and embraces your vision for the company and its future. (Plus, it's one of the cornerstones of an ethical business.)
It’s all well and good to maintain an “open-door” policy so staff feels welcome to ask you questions, but that only opens the door one way: from them to you. How can you communicate effectively with them?
Here are three quick takeaways that can help address some of the most common communication rough spots.
Remember the four C’s when sending any written business communication: is it Complete, Correct, Concise, and Clear?
We all know the adage about what assuming does, right? When you’re sending a message to your staff, don’t assume that they have all the same facts and information that you do. Include all of the background information relevant to the subject at hand.
This goes beyond making sure that any numbers you quote are accurate. It also means ensuring your grammar is correct and there are no misspellings. If you send a message with errors they could become the center of attention, rather than the message you’re trying to convey.
Avoid getting wordy when you write. If you aren’t sure, websites like Grammarly.com can help you eliminate redundancies and improve your writing.
Focus on one message at a time and make sure you’re using words and terminology that accurately express your message. Is your communication meant to share information, request information, provide feedback, or issue a directive?
Communication is no good if it isn’t timely. That is, you should communicate with your staff while things are pertinent.
If you’re issuing praise, offer it as soon as possible. If you have a forum for public recognition of a job well done, use that, but also let the employee know as soon as you are aware of their meritorious act.
Likewise, if you need to counsel someone for an infraction, do it shortly after the incident. (Don’t forget, however, that you should always praise in public and counsel in private.)
Above all, follow through. Don’t tell an employee that they will receive an award and then fail to deliver.
Ask for Feedback
Nobody likes telling the boss that they’re wrong. (And as a boss—and a human being—it’s not easy to hear negative feedback from your team.) But it’s important that your direct reports feel comfortable telling you when the ship is going off course. How do you do that? There are several tactics that you can take.
Use an Intermediary
Everyone has an employee that they trust a little more than the others. (It’s true, don’t deny it!) Utilize them as someone that other employees can go to with issues, with the public understanding that you will meet regularly to discuss feedback.
Make it Normal
How often does your boss ask you for feedback? If you balk at the thought of telling your boss something is going wrong, imagine how it is for your subordinates.
The key is to normalize the conversation. Ask for feedback both during staff meetings and in less formal settings. When suggestions are made, acknowledge their validity and, if appropriate, turn them into SMART goals for yourself and give updates on how you’re doing.
If you don’t ask, you likely won’t know—and when it comes to your employees, ignorance is never bliss. Hopefully, you already have some idea of any negative impressions your staff may have of you.
Are you a bit too aloof?
Do you spend a lot of time out of touch with the office?
Do you often ask employees to work outside of normal business hours?
Let your employees know that you’re aware, and describe your SMART goal to change that for the better.
While no single blog post can answer every question about communicating effectively with employees, these three takeaways should help. It doesn’t matter if you have two employees or two hundred. You could be the vice-president of an entire division or a supervisor with a staff of three. Remember that when it comes to employee happiness, communication is key.